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What Can Economists Do Better?: A Look at the Profession

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 4, 2020 10:15 AM - 12:15 PM (PDT)

Manchester Grand Hyatt, Cove
Hosted By: Association for Social Economics & International Network for Economic Method
  • Chair: Steven Pressman, Colorado State University

Should Economists Tell the Truth? Pro-Social Lying, Paternalism, and the Ben Bernanke Problem

George DeMartino
University of Denver


A widely held principle in professional ethics, across the professions, is the duty to speak truthfully when engaging in professional activity. Expert truth-telling has come to be recognized as vital to the respect that is due to clients and others who must act based on professional advice. Given that context, it is curious that economics does not generally require truth-telling among its members. Against truth telling, in cases where what an economist says can impact social welfare, the profession tends toward “pro-social lying”—lying that is thought to be in society’s best interests. The case of central banker statements during economic crisis is relevant. Would economists have preferred that Ben Bernanke tell the truth about the threats to the US and world economy in the early days of the crisis of 2008, when doing so might have destabilized financial markets further? But pro-social lying comes at a cost to the profession, and to society. Not least, pro-social lying reflects a paternalistic ethos that has by now been challenged in other professions; and the prevalence of pro-social lying may undermine trust—both trust among economists, and between economists and those economists purport to serve.

Diversity and Inclusion at the Intersection of Race, Ethnicity and Gender

Rhonda Vonshay Sharpe
Women's Institute for Science, Equity and Race



Mentoring Matters: A Patch for the Leaky Pipeline

Jacqueline Strenio
Southern Oregon University


The importance of mentoring is highlighted through its incorporation as one of three core treatment areas in the Undergraduate Women in Economics (UWE) project. Yet, early evidence from one of the universities participating in UWE—Colorado State University—finds that peer mentoring in the form of mentoring activities throughout the semester, has an insignificant effect on female students’ major outcomes. Li suggests that this could be explained by the low participation rate in mentoring activities. But, what explains low participation rates? I argue that offering mentoring alone is not enough; the type (who, what, how) of mentoring matters for increasing participation and buy-in from both mentor and mentee. This might necessitate training and guidance in order for mentors to be effective. Mentoring must also meet each individual where she is at if it is to create the capability for young scholars to thrive in economics and this may vary for different individuals. Yang, Chawla, and Uzzi (2019) suggest that that women face additional challenges in securing professional opportunities by requiring both wide networks and an inner circle of female contacts to be successful (compared to men who require only wide networks). These network and mentoring issues may compound for those with multiple underrepresented identities. Lastly, mentoring requires continuity and although many interventions focus on students, it may be even more crucial for junior faculty as they lose the more formal mentoring structures that existed in graduate school. Active mentoring at this stage has been shown to have a significant impact on faculty success. Participation in the CSWEP Mentoring Program (CeMENT) in which junior faculty are exposed to senior role models, increased the number of top-tier publications, the overall number of publications, and the number of successful federal grant application relative to the control. Using evidence from research and insights from personal experience,...
JEL Classifications
  • B4 - Economic Methodology